On Rebels, Sardonic Droid Is Recaptured By Unappreciative Criminals

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Welcome! Reminder: this is not a full review. Instead I just take a look at one or two things all the while wishing for Star Wars: The Musical to be announced as the third anthology film. As always, SPOILERS from here on out.

This week on Rebels, Double Agent Droid, Apey steals the show and … erm, some other stuff happens? Seriously, I could never watch this episode again and miss nothing but those last two minutes were glorious and will live on in my YouTube search history forever.

Comeuppance

Whatever floats your boat, Chop, I’m not one to judge.

This week the show addressed something that’s been bugging me for some time. Whenever the spectres have needed to infiltrate an Imperial base they have followed basically the same lines: dress up in fancy uniforms and then rely on Chopper to iron out the wrinkles. Not literally, that’d be … actually who does do the ironing on the ship? How do they iron the uniforms? Do they have space age irons or simply heat up Chopper and then roll him over until the wrinkles have gone? Is that why he’s so antagonistic? That’s going to bug me for a long time now. Anyhoo, where was I? Oh, yes. Their infiltration plan. It’s a tried and true method, one that’s worked successfully – up until now. What’s changed? Well, for a start they haven’t been up against an incredibly astute tactician, one that pays attention to even the most minute of details. But take Thrawn out of the picture; they’ve relied, with little alteration, on the same plan over and over again. That’s … so very stupid it’s almost suicidal. It’s also very in-keeping with their modus operandi – find a way that works, what’s good enough for them to succeed, and then keep on doing it until it bites them in the tushie. From all matters of security, from simple computer or email passwords in every day life, to the journey to work habits of actual spooks, variation is key. In order to keep your accounts safe, it’s recommended that you regularly change your passwords. In order to avoid external interference (i.e. other spies finding you) spies must vary their route to work so that they’re not compromised. And here, in Rebels, it’s vital for the Spectres to change the way they infiltrate bases – if only to keep the Imperials guessing.

It also breeds complacency and arrogance, things that generally bring about ones’ comeuppance and in this episode theirs very much came up. Now, to be entirely fair to the rebels they do seem to take some measures. Hera noted that she wipes Chopper’s memory frequently; but that seems like part of their standard operating procedure rather than something specific to that mission, or infiltration missions in general. And as we saw, even that safety measure failed when Chopper nearly spaced the crew and nearly uploaded the files to the Imperial ship. Let’s reintroduce Thrawn into this conversation. The Spectres are no longer up to the regular army that we’ve seen in the past but rather a being in possession of one of the most dangerous weapons a soldier can have: a keen mind*. We’re already seeing how their complacency and their ‘good enough’ attitude is only enabling Thrawn to close in on them. If they are to survive the moment when Thrawn finally does make his move then they need to learn to adapt and fast.

*Really, really big guns come a close second.

Minor Danger Is Still A Danger

It’s probably a coincidence that the listening ship has Mickey Mouse ears.

Folks, let me tell you a tale. If you’re a regular reader you may already know this, but several weeks ago I reviewed ‘Through Imperial Eyes’ in which I make a case for a thorough investigation into Agent Kallus – and I do so by providing an example of a lowly intelligence officer as the perspective. Lo and behold, we get an episode where a lowly intelligence officer almost captures our Spectres! Now, I’m not saying I have the power to alter events that happened in the past so that we get episodes that consist with my (admittedly fickle) whims and desires, but I’m certainly thinking it loudly.

I joke, of course. I can’t actually control space and time, but nonetheless I am utterly thrilled that we got to see the Star Wars equivalent of the desk jockey be the Big Bad for once. Part of my enthusiasm for this strangely familiar looking baddie is because Star Wars, as a whole, tends towards the grand schemes, the galaxy spanning conflicts and the grandiose characters – like the visually menacing Darth Vader or, you know, Grand Admiral Thrawn. These are of course cool and iconic villains, but I do sometimes tire of the seeming desire to top what came before with an even bigger, badder threat. Because of that I tend to not even fear for the crews’ lives or even fear that baddie themselves. They’re still very much enjoyable, but still. It’s a trend towards same-ness.

Luckily – or perhaps more accurately, skilfully – the show is good at keeping those tendencies in check. Even though the show itself is only a few series old, it already has a long (metaphorically speaking) and storied tradition of, well, not having a traditional villain-type at all. The showrunners seemingly delight in making their villains as varied as possible. There was the Grand Inquisitor, as well as those two Imperial officers, Brutus and Mucus, that he himself beheaded. There was also, briefly, Grand Moff Tarkin who provided a similar yet distinct taste for ruthlessness. And while there was also the double dip that was the brother and sister Inquisitors (which did push things a bit in terms of repetition but the creators wisely stepped back from that this year). Then there was Pryce and Vader and Thrawn, each one providing their own distinct type of danger. And then there’s Lobot-lite.

‘Sup!

‘Lobot-lite’ is perhaps being rather cruel given the special place he has in my heart, but I cannot for the life of me think of him as anything else. Sorry, Thingymawhootsit. Lobot-lite is a superb demonstration that it’s not enough to simply change things up but to use that change wisely. Instead of going ‘bad, badder, baddest’ with their villains the showrunners gave the Spectres a tiny villain for this episode. By doing so it returns to the shows’ roots and reiterates the fact that they started out as the little guys that had trouble dealing with local, small scale stormtrooper garrisons. It reinforces the idea that the Empire is dangerous on every level, that it’s not just the higher ups who are a danger to the rebellion, but rather that one small and probably unnoticed pen pusher can be as big a danger as Thrawn. Well, sort of. I’m using terms like ‘big bad’ and ‘little guy’ a lot and that makes the whole thing seem like it’s an issue of size, when the whole point of the episode is that it’s not. Because in reality it doesn’t matter how big or how small the danger is, the fact of the matter is, you’re in danger of being killed either way. Put another way: you can drown in an inch of water just the same as drowning in the sea. To quote Yoda, ‘size matters not’. This episode was a lesson that you don’t have to be grandiose to be scary.

Even then, it still serves the purpose of, well, making the Big Bad look both bigger and badder – because the mere presence of the pen-pushing villain grounds the Big Bad in reality by providing a sense of scale that we can understand. We understand the power of the pen pusher because most if not all of us have had difficulties trying to tackle bureaucratic monstrosities (as an example, I gather the DMV is particularly irksome – though I may be wrong in that having never personally experienced it). This is something we can experience in the real world and so know its difficulties quite well. As such, it reinforces how fragile the crew is as well because if they have trouble again this minor villain, how are they to survive against Thrawn?

Regimes the world over, from autocracies to … zdictatorships, love to enforce their rule by regulating the lives of their subjects. By enacting law after law so that the people can then be arrested over trivial matters, these tyrants ensure that their subjects live in constant fear – and a populace that lives in constant fear is one that’s less likely to rebel. The Empire of the Star Wars universe is just such a regime. Now imagine you are a civilian in that world; someone who’s just trying to make their way in the galaxy. Usually you keep your head down and keep out of trouble – but something, some injustice just rubbed you up the wrong way and so you decide to speak out or protest. As such a civilian, you are much less likely to encounter the dreaded Tarkin or Darth Vader and his might, but instead you’ll probably be shot in the head by some unknown stormtrooper who was acting on the intelligence of a lowly operative like Lobot-lite – an operative you, as a civilian, wouldn’t even know existed. A similar thing almost happened in this episode, but to our Spectres. Had things been just slightly different, if Lobot-lite had been able to better emulate Chopper’s personality, he would have been able to take down our heroes and heroines – and they wouldn’t even have known the person that ended their lives. That, to me, is the scariest thing of all.

Michael Dare

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